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Daniels, M. (1969). Pathological Vindictiveness and the Vindictive Character. Psychoanal. Rev., 56B(2):169-196.

(1969). Psychoanalytic Review, 56B(2):169-196

Pathological Vindictiveness and the Vindictive Character

Marvin Daniels, Ph.D.

Rebellion is born of the spectacle of irrationality, confronted with an unjust and incomprehensible condition. But its blind impulse is to demand order in the midst of chaos, and unity in the very heart of the emphemeral. It protests, it demands, it insists that the outrage be brought to an end, and that what has up to now been built upon shifting sands should henceforth be founded on rock.

Albert Camus, The Rebel.

“Normal” vindictiveness refers to the common human experience of wanting to return injury for injury. The reaction is usually immediate and tends to wane with the passage of time. What moves one to seek vengeance? Heider5 reviewed and discussed a number of theories regarding the urge for retribution. Some theorists stressed the importance of inculcating new respect, or fear, in the offending party or other potential aggressors. Other theorists emphasized the avenger's need to vindicate himself in his own eyes.

Such explanations might suffice to explain the occasional episode of vindictive feeling. But in the formidable presence of pathological vindictiveness, these theories seem pallid indeed. Time does not heal the hatred of the pathologically vindictive person. He savors his fantasies and carefully plots revenge.

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